A great film remade into a great film. Encountering them is exceptionally rare, cinema’s equivalent of trying to find a four leaf clover in a nuclear fallout or locating an op-shop that doesn’t stock Dan Brown or Michael Crichton.
Decades of cinematic corkers remade into duds – The Pink Panther, Dinner for Schmucks, Psycho, The Stepford Wives, to name but a few – have conditioned audiences not to expect much from contemporary alternatives to dusty gems.
The horror genre is more riddled with remakes than any other. Most of them are dodgy rehashings of dodgy originals but there are good’uns sprinkled through the rubble – remakes of The Fly, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Thing and Dawn of the Dead at least do justice to the originals.
As Cloverfield director Matt Reeves reminds us, it’s not all bad. Hollywood has never seen a horror remake as good Reeves’s faithful but bold rehashing of Tomas Alfredson’s sublimely eerie Swedish vampire flick Let the Right One In (2008), which took fang in neck fiction and made it feel uncomfortably real and personal.
The stakes (no pun intended) were high, the standard almost impossible to meet. The original married commensurate production and story elements – particularly gorgeous cinematography, a gripping storyline and two terrific feats of underage acting from prepubescent performers.
Like its predecessor, Reeves’s more succinctly titled Let Me In is in essence about a friendship between a young boy and a young “girl” – Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Abby (Chloe Moretz).
The inverted commas are there because Abby isn’t by her own admission strictly a girl. She’s a vampire who has “been 12 for a very long time” and needs to consume blood or she gets weak, cranky and stinky.
Abby moves into the apartment complex where Owen lives and an abstruse father figure credited only as “The Father” manages her dietary requirements. The scenes in which he harvests blood by tracking down local youth are chilling to the bone. With every kill, he carries with him a bottle of acid to pour over his face, making him difficult to identify if he is ever caught. A scene in a car in which The Father hides in the back seat is one of the scariest things I’ve watched in a long time, a particularly impressive achievement given I more or less knew the outcome.
Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Bright Star, Last Ride, The Boys are Back) makes the film look achingly good, employing terrific use of extreme close ups, contrasting images and shots so darkly beautiful they would make your heart skip a beat – if it wasn’t already beating three times as fast.
Let Me In’s Australian theatrical release date: October 12, 2010.